The New Year – 2016

 

Blog Segment - Peeking Through The Window copyYou know, typically, I’m not big on the whole New Year’s Resolutions thing. It has always felt a little bit weird to me to have a specific time of the year to say “Things are going to be different, now!” when that’s generally the sort of thing that I would assume we should be ready to do, and be serious about, on any given day. If anything, having a national holiday (kinda) for it makes me realize all the more how bad I am at keeping “resolutions.” Despite this, I find myself here about to write down a little bit of a wrap up for last year, and a look ahead to this one, with a little of resolve for solutions thrown in the mix. So let’s get started.

Continue reading

“Skin Game” Review

The latest entry in the Dresden Files is fun, but lacks enough substance for fans wanting more.

Image

June 21, 2014 – I’ve reviewed a number of books on this site before, but I’ve never reviewed one of the books in the Dresden Files series. That is a shame, because I’ve read all of the Dresden Files long after I started this reviews blog, and they are all worthy of my time to review. Now here I am, reviewing book fifteen in the series out of the blue (sixteen if you count the “Side Jobs” anthology.) Continue reading

Mass Effect 3 – The Review, The Endings, The Controversy


Hello, everybody! I know there are some of you out there who are really looking forward to the next post of the “New Canon” series, but there are some minor hurdles that need to be dealt with before we can post it. Not to worry, though! It’s day will come.

Until then, however, I can’t just let the blog lie fallow, and I have a topic of some interest to me I want to discuss. So let’s get to it, shall we?

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Just the other day I finished up Mass Effect 3. If you want to know my full and detailed feelings about the game, just click on over to my Review. It will come as little surprise that I loved the game immensely. However, on top of all the amazing experiences and emotions that game gave me, there is some sour as well. That sourness, the ending, is what I wish to discuss today. As much as anything else, this post is partially to sort out my feelings about the ending, as well as parse my thoughts on the surrounding controversy, the petitions, the “indoctrination theory,” all of it.

For those of you who think I’m going to be all rage and nonsense, I assure you that there are things I feel the ending did well. For those of you who think the ending is blameless…. Actually I really want to hear from you because I only hear from the ragers (this IS the internet), and I want your perspective too.

Oh, and it should be obvious by now, but there are going to be major spoilers incoming, so don’t read on if you don’t want to know ahead of time. Play it and come back. The discussion might help more people deal with it besides just me. At least that is my hope. So…

**********************SPOILER WARNING**********************


(Before we start, here are some details about my playthrough that my help contextualize the following material, though I will talk about all possible “Best” Endings – I played a Female Shepherd Paragon who only did Renegade Actions to save the lives of friends and innocents. My Shepherd romanced Liara and chose the “Synthesis” ending.)

I think it’s important to start out by talking about what the ending did well. Partially to remind myself that I do, in fact, love this game despite what I’m going to get into later.

The sacrificial element was well done. Beautiful even. The entire game talks about the costs of war, the price of peace, and the sacrifices and lives it takes to get through it all. Shepherd’s sacrifice to either control the reapers, or synthesize all organic and synthetic life was moving to me. I was literally in tears over it. If there was anyone who deserved that retirement, that joy in victory and life at the end of the game, it was my Shepherd. And she would never get it. The thought of all of Shepherds friends living on without her was heartbreaking, especially in Liara’s case (Shepherd will never get to see all the little blue children!).

Shepherd’s sacrifice was also built up to well, if a tad obviously. The growing sense of dread, desperation, and despair combined with the talks with all of her past crew-mates that felt very much like last good-byes, all pointed to a conclusion that wouldn’t see Shepherd alive on the other side. In this respect, at least, it seems like the developers were trying to bring closure to Shepherd’s story. You say your last good-byes and then go save he universe by sacrificing yourself. These little moments with her friends were touching to me.

Of all the endings, I feel that the best ending was the “Synthesis” ending. I’ll get into some of the specifics later, but part of the reason for me was that it touched on three things that I always like to see. First of all, I’m a sucker for stories about the plight of true AI. The idea of this new creation finding life and love, and yet being feared and despised because it isn’t a “real person” is always a touching story for me (I don’t know why, it just is). I also love things that tickle my imagination with the possibilities of a new and different future. And the last is the successful union of love over boundaries that might seem insurmountable. All of these things were addressed in the Synthesis ending.

Specifically, EDI and Joker are able to actually share a future together. In the simple “Control” ending, EDI and Joker, despite their relationship and survival, are still distant and separated by the boundaries of artificial life and the difficulty, no, impossibility of emotion. In the “Destroy” Ending, EDI isn’t even alive anymore. But in “Synthesis” there’s that magical moment when you see Joker’s glowing green irises and realize that Joker’s DNA has been rewritten into a new form of life. The synthesis of synthetic and organic. And then EDI emerges from the Normandy and immediately you can read the emotion on her face. Joker extends his hand to her with a smile and helps her out of the ship. They both shimmer with the newness of their beings, and they embrace lovingly on this garden planet.

Seeing EDI overcome the limitations of her synthetic design, to carry emotion, was a beautiful sight. Seeing Joker up and moving around (I think he may already be healing from his disease) and embracing EDI… well, If there was any one thing I enjoyed more about the ending, I don’t know what it is. And of course I want to know what the combination of these two forms of life mean for the Universe. How does this change things? I could speculate, but that isn’t what this post is for, and the possibilities are endless.
"Yeah, a synthetic/organic relationship. Whatcha gonna do bout it?"
Those are the things I like and love about the ending. Other things, not so much. Before I get into them, I think I should point you over to my Post on the Rough Writer’s Blog where I analyze the ending from the perspective of a writer and what I think went wrong from a technical point of view. I think that discussion really influences all of this, but I understand if some don’t want to go into the writer’s element specifically.

The most obvious problem from the endings, and I do want to emphasize that this affects all of them, is the lack of closure. The “good-bye” chats with the various crew members were good. No question. But they are a sad excuse for closure. I don’t know what happened to any of those people after the fight with the Reapers. None of them. I don’t even have hints to go off of. I don’t know what happened to the galaxy fleet. I don’t know what happened to all those people, or Admiral Hacket – Hell, I don’t even know what happened to Earth! I mean, I assume they survived and rebuilt, but I have little to base that off of. There are exactly three people I KNOW survived. Joker, EDI and Liara. But I’m left with questions there too.

It seems like they crash landed on some sort of alien garden world, so… How do they get off? I don’t think the Normandy is fast enough to get to another planet ahead of that green wave of energy, so that means they did a Mass Effect Relay jump trying to escape. In that case, doesn’t that mean they are stranded? All of the relays were destroyed by the energy. So are they stuck? Forever? Nobody is likely to get to them any time soon. And if you want closure, at the very least, on your Romance choice (assuming they didn’t die earlier in the game) well, you’re screwed. The only reason I know Liara survived was because she climbed out of the Normandy after EDI. Assuming they do get off the planet they are apparently stranded on, what happens to her? Does she ever have any little blue children from that one beautiful night with Shepherd before the last mission?

There are so many questions. What happens to the rest of the galaxy? What happens now that everyone is cut off from everybody else due to the loss of Mass Effect Relays? Where are the Reapers going now, anyway?

The idea that the Normandy crew is stranded, and what happened to Liara, are my biggest issues with the lack of clarity. A lot of the other things don’t have to be explained. It is important as a writer to hold some things back to keep the audience invested in the world long after the end. But these are gaping black holes of depression that need to be filled. If we don’t assume that they are somehow magically saved, the Normandy crew are doomed to a life of isolation and starvation in at least a portion of the crew.

But those are just the obvious issues. Then you get into the plot holes.

How exactly was Liara able to get back on the Normandy when she was down on Earth with me during the final push? Why didn’t the destroyed Mass Effect Relays destroy all life in the galaxy (It’s been established that blowing one up destroys all life in a system)? Why did the pistol have unlimited ammo just before Shepherd went up in the beam to the Citadel? Why was the citadel so different from how they remembered it? How did the Illusive Man get there too? How was Shepherd able to breathe when he was with the Catalyst? Why did the Catalyst look like the little boy who died on Earth at the start of the game?

Let me make something clear before I continue. I have no real issue with “Space Magic” or “handwavium,” or whatever you want to call it. Hard Science Fiction is cool and all, but I prefer good drama to good science. So I don’t consider the “Synthesis” option’s impossible science (as far as we know) to be a plot hole. Same with the “Control” option’s ability to maker the Reapers just sort of fly away. The “Destroy” option, however, is problematic.

In the “Destroy” option, why does the Crucible destroy all synthetic life? How would it not also destroy all technology if it was that far reaching? If so, doesn’t this option reduce everyone to the bronze age again? Furthermore, it implies that Shepherd is still alive somehow. Since we witness the destruction of the Citadel, and it looks like Shepherd is on Earth, how does she survive the fall through the Earth’s atmosphere? She’s not Master Chief, and even if she rode some piece of the citadel through the atmosphere, the crash at the ground would surely have killed her. If some part of the citadel survived and was floating in space, assuming she somehow has atmosphere, doesn’t she now die a slow death there? Remember that the “Destroy” option has eliminated technology, so how is anyone supposed to get to her?

So, now that I’ve finished the game, and there are all of these unresolved issues, I find myself aghast that I have to ask the question: “Did I win?”

I mean, I saw the credits. There was even a bland after-the-credits sequence that rubs the fact that what happened was fiction in my face (another issue), but I still don’t know if I actually won anything. As far as I know, everyone died. Most died fighting the Reapers, some died stranded on a planet, For all I know, Earth is stuck in the bronze age with the remains of a galaxy fleet falling from the sky, and Shepherd died, for what?

Did. I. Win. I’m shocked that I don’t know the answer at the end of the game. Everything I love about the ending is possibly invalidated by this singular problem. Did I win? Was there any way to win? Was the whole point from the developers to say that no matter what, Shepherd loses? I don’t know. And looking over everything, this is why I still feel so upset. Why so many people are upset.

This of course is the source of the “Indoctrination Theory” that has sprung up in response. What this theory states, is that the end of Mass Effect 3 was an indoctrination dream. The scene in the “Destroy” ending when Shepherd appears to wake up, actually happened right after getting shot by the Reaper (Harbringer, by the way) before going up the beam to the Citadel. Everything between getting shot and waking up in that ending was a dream sequence.

What shocks me most is how much this makes sense. A lot of the plot holes of the ending are explained by this. The dream-like walk to the beam. The way Anderson is always miraculously slightly ahead of you in the Citadel. The whispers. The appearance of the Catalyst as the boy from the beginning of the game. The sudden switch of priorities from killing the Reapers to letting them live. A lot of the “space magic” plays into this too. If you want to read or watch good analysis of why this might be real, a quick google search will reveal the best laid conspiracy theories about it.

I find it sad that this ending is the most compelling to me. It’s probably more sad that I hope it’s true. The mere prospect of DLC that actually does a better job of ending the series has me salivating. Here, Bioware, take my money! But if this were true, it would be a lousy move on the part of the Developer. Ending the game with a “fake” cluster of endings is like pulling a prank on your customers. And DLC won’t save people without internet access, immediately solidifying a large portion of the player base away from any sort of closure. If this is true, and was planned, then it was a really crappy move.

But that’s why I think there’s no way the theory is correct. I simply think the writers at Boware made some dumb choices and mistakes. It happens. Writers screw up. Believing the Indoctrination theory is reading too much into it.

So we’re stuck with the endings we have, flaws in all. Or are we? Right now there are petitions going on, and organized movements to plead with Bioware to change the endings by providing DLC revisions. Initially I thought these efforts were stupid and misguided. Trying to get a company to change its product through a petition? Silly. What right do these people have to ask for something like this?

But I looked into it further and I’ve changed rather drastically on the issue. First of all, after examining the endings closely, there is no doubt that the fans are right to feel betrayed by them. This Article from GameFront examines why, and talks about many of the same things I’ve mentioned here. Furthermore, the petition isn’t just a bunch of ragers and entitled kids. The petition they’ve begun is also a drive for charity. You can read up on them in this Forum Post and see their progress (over 23k raised as of this writing) Here. I’m so impressed at the level of respect and dedication of the group that I donated a bit myself. Even if nothing is ever done, at least the children get helped out.

Do I think it’ll work? No. Not really. But I think there is one way I might get something out of it. There might be some way for one of the future DLC packs to at least have some kind of “Afterwards.” Something that shows that Shepherd’s choices throughout the game mattered. That people were actually saved. That the Normandy crew was rescued. That Shepherd won.

I cannot express how badly I want this.

Now as for whether Bioware “has to change it” or not – No. Of course they don’t “have to.” Even with its heavy flaws, it is their game, and they don’t have to do anything. But should they? I think so. Their audience has put substantial investment in this series. Not just emotional, though certainly that, but financial as well. These are the people who have gone out and bought it day one. These are the people who buy the merchandise. These are the people who tell their friends, their family, heck probably even their enemies and complete strangers to go and buy this game.

Does Bioware “Owe” this player base something? This is a question whose answer relies on your view of the relationship between the customer and the producer, or the recipient and the artist, or, as I talk about at the Rough Writer’s Blog, the audience and the writer.

The fact is, the process is a two-way street. The customer gives up money in exchange of a product that will keep its promises as advertised. This is easy to discern in a physical product. A toaster that doesn’t toast is a breech of that contract between buyer and maker. A disc that doesn’t play music is a breech between a production company and the listener. The path forward is clear. The producer, the maker, must make amends.
Let's all dream together. ... Of what might be...
When it comes to the more abstract promises, however, in terms of story or quality, things become dicier. There is no question that Bioware broke the promises of its story, but these are abstract promises. So should they “Owe” their audience for it? Should they make amends?

I say “yes.” And the reason why I say so is because that the demand of the maker, the publisher, the producer is in itself becoming more abstract. They demand more than money. They demand mindshare. They demand control over the products they sell. They demand strict DRM and invade the social space of our lives. If companies are allowed to make abstract demands on their audience, then the same may be demanded the other way.

Of course, the demands both ways, being abstract, also mean that there are no legal demands that may be made. Bioware doesn’t have to do anything. They probably should do something, but “have to” goes too far.

For one additional look at the problems of the ending in video commentary format, here’s a guy who puts the heart of the matter in a very concise and clear way:

Now, since the reader is asked to fill in so many of the blanks. I figured I might as well give you my personal rosy and cheery ending, in which I filled in a number of holes according to my own preferences.

It may not be right, but it helps me sleep at night.
Ahem…

When Shepherd Sacrificed herself to synthesize synthetic and organic life, the process evolved life to a higher plane of existence. The basic necessities of life are minimal for these new heavenly beings. While they can enjoy food and water and such, they no longer require it. The Normandy crew, now being immortals are eventually rescued. And go on to live happy lives. Liara has a daughter whom she raises on the stories of her other mother, Nova Shepherd (my Shepherd). The combined galaxy fleet begin the long FTL flight home, but are able to make it within the next few decades with little issues due to their new immortal state. Living as elevated beings, they continue to get along in peace and harmony FOREVER.

SO THERE!

The fact that I have to say this to myself to make the ending bearable says something, I think (and not just about me, to all you smart alecks.)

Here’s hoping Bioware listens.

Edward L. Cheever II

P.S. To those of you who think I may be too down on Mass Effect 3, keep in mind that I love the game until the final 10 minutes. It’s one of the best series of all time, in any medium. I love Mass Effect. Please go read My Review to find out.

Bioshock Teaches Libertarianism to Coyote Who Doesn’t Learn Anything.


Oh don’t you worry, we’ll talk about those Libertarian kitties shortly. I didn’t choose that image for nothing. But today I’ve also got some musings on a book series I’ve been reading recently, and a few observations regarding my recent transition of jobs. Oh, and there’s some news in here somewhere about another expansion of the family, but we’ll get to that too. Let’s begin, shall we?

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

As you no doubt have noticed by a review I posted over a week ago, I’ve started a new science fiction series lately by Allen Steele by the name of “The Coyote Trilogy” recently. We’ll I’ve got the second book’s review up and ready to read right here – “Coyote Rising”, and I’ve already finished the third book, “Coyote Frontier” and I’ll be plowing through “Coyote Horizon” shortly, I hope. I know this seems like a sudden burst of reading activity, and it sort of is, but really, I read through book series’ at a decent clip, I just have a hard time starting. Once I’d read “Coyote” it was a done deal, so long as it was good, which it was.

This segment is mostly a plug for my review of “Coyote Rising”, but as I’ve finished “Coyote Frontier” already (keep an eye out for that review sometime this next week), I thought I’d share a few of my opinions of the series as a whole. This will be lightly spoilerish for the series, and I’ll be assuming your familiarity with the material. Some of this will be reiterated in the “Frontier” review, no doubt, but I might as well explore those waters now.

Speaking of exploration, if I have one great disappointment with the series, it is the lack of the exploratory sensations of the first book being carried into the rest of the series. There were brand new horizons, uncharted waters, strange new life forms, etc. in “Coyote.” You get glimpses of new places and terrain in the following books, but never anything particularly exciting. There is a notable exception if you count the native inhabitants, but it is a small serving that doesn’t satisfy my hunger. Perhaps I shouldn’t have come into the second book with expectations, but then that upsetting of expectations is consistent across the whole series so far.

And that is at the heart of what I wanted to say here. These books, for all that they build off of the of one another, and for all that some mysteries or threads get tied up, never feel like a “Trilogy” so to speak. What I mean by that, is that each one wraps itself up very nice and tidy, except for some particular strings that never get satisfactorily followed up on in the next installment. The overarching plot of the three books, the theme so to speak – if perhaps more appropriately called tone, is different from one book to the next. I’ve not been really disappointed with the sequels, as you will discover in my reviews, but neither have I been truly satisfied. Steele has create a great new world here, and in some ways I wanted to step through the pages and turn aside from where he was taking me, to explore this world myself.

I just noticed that I essentially complained this series wasn’t a video game. That actually sounds like a really interesting idea.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Speaking of Video Games, have I got a story for you. See, apparently, the founder of Pay Pal, and one of the early investors of Face Book (aka a super rich guy) by the name of Peter Thiel has taken up the cause of creating A Wholly Independent City-State in the Middle of the Ocean Based Entirely On Libertarian Theory of Government. The idea is essentially to build an oil-platform type of construction in international waters where like-minded individuals can come and escape “the laws, regulations, and moral codes of existing countries.”

And really, aren’t these people entitled to the sweat of their own brow? No, says the man in Washington, it belongs to the poor. No, says the man in the Vatican, it belongs to God. No, says the man in Moscow, it belongs to every…
Wait…

Sound Familiar?


Really the only significant difference between this and good ol’ Bioshock as of this point in the story is that it isn’t the 1950s, and they aren’t wanting to build this thing underwater – just on top of it. I really recommend going to the article link, and their sources, to read this entire thing. It’s truly creepily familiar.

These people have either played too much Bioshock, or not enough. As I’ve said elsewhere, the game clearly depicts the idea that this sort of scenario simply doesn’t work. It breaks down somewhere. Part of the problem is that you’re asking a bunch of people to come and live out in the middle of the ocean on a political whim, which basically restricts it to rich people, and then you’re inevitably going to need people to keep this place running from a mechanical standpoint.

There's Also The Basketball Team to Think About


So you’re either going to have to force some of these rich fops get to work, or you’re going to begin importing workers from elsewhere. Either way, you’re creating a working class that serves the rich, without any hope of upward movement, thus creating the perfect environment for a dystopic, dysfunctional society.

Oh, and one of the values they are trumpeting is looser building codes. Looser building codes? On a floating platform in the middle of the ocean? These people WANT to die in a terrible accident.

Paradise!


This thing is, in my opinion, destined to fail. They’re either extremely lucky, or extremely unlucky, that plasmids won’t be involved (man, this makes me want to play that game again.) But I want to know your opinion on these shenanigans. Vote below! After all, this is the Voters Booth. 🙂

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Finally, I want to talk briefly about my recent change of occupation, in a sense. I’ve gone from working on the Burleson Star to working (I use the term loosely, as I’m not paid) at Chisholm Trail Academy as a student teacher. Now, I miss the paper. The work was rewarding, and not too tough if you’re a reporter, and a number of the people I worked with there were great (though I think I’d have had some serious arguments with most of them if I ever brought up politics), but the job was creatively taxing in a way I didn’t expect. Writing articles may not be my favorite kind of creativity, but it uses the same brain muscles, and so I was always too worn out to write anything, despite the fact that it wasn’t too hard of a job. Also, I had issues with some of the management decisions, and the way certain employees were treated, but what are you gonna do, right?

I can’t speak to it through a lens of experience, but student teaching already feels different. I don’t feel exhausted by the idea of work. In a way it’s energizing. If working as a reporter was going outside and getting your hands dirty, then this is like staying home. I’m a school kind of guy. I always have been. The learning process is refreshing. Dwelling in ideas and subjects that I love is thrilling, as is working with old friends. It won’t be easy, necessarily, but I think I’m going to like it.

Of course I say that now, while I;m in the observing/planning stage. Put me in front of a class of students more or less by myself three times a day and we’ll see how that changes.
I’m counting on you, my boundless charisma!

My Inevitable Results


Oh, and being on the other side of the door, say when the faculty meets in the mornings, is a very alien experience to me.

Anyways, I’ve got one last piece of news. A bit of excitement. You see, my sister, Kimberly, recently got engaged to Chris. *Cheers* I called it, I have to say. I’m able to gloat when I want. If he’s taking her home to meet the family…. in CANADA – land of the lush and beautiful landscapes – then it was, I said, almost certain that he was going to propose. Well, they did, and his parents were hiding in the bush to give us photographic proof.

I’ve got to say, though I haven’t met him much, out of all the guys she’s dated or been chased by, Chris is the nicest – the best overall choice – of all of them. Here’s hoping it works out! *crosses fingers*

Oh, and really guys? Trying to steal me and Katie’s thunder? Classy. /Sarcasm. The only real loser here is my parents who have to plan a whole new wedding only six months after mine. Those poor, poor people.
Anyways, that’s all for today, folks!

Thank you, come again,

– Edward L. Cheever II

Captain America Punches the Debt Ceiling and Norway Wishes for the Light of Other Days

Don't Worry, The World's Not Ending.... Yet....


Wow, it sure has been a while. There are plenty of reasons why, of course, but none of them are really sufficient, so I won’t waste your time with them.

Blog time, yo!

Let’s keep this simple. First, I’m going to bring up a slew of topics which I’m going to give my brief opinions on, and then we’ll get into a brief rant on a certain “ceiling” and the idiots who are banging their heads against it. Let’s get going, shall we?

Wow there has been a lot of entertainment stuff lately.

In terms of movies, I’m afraid I’m not going to get around to writing a Green Lantern review, so let me just say that it was okay, choppy, and mostly forgettable. Harry Potter 7.5 deserves a full review, and I’ll give it one later, when I have the chance. The same goes for Captain America, but if you want the long and short of my opinion: “Huzzah! I Loved it! Go see it!” I hope you still want to stop by the review later!

The Review, WHERE IS IT!?!?

I’ve read a couple sci-fi novels lately and both are pretty great. “The Light of Other Days” by Stephen Baxter and Arthur C. Clarke was the first, and “Coyote” by Allen Steele was the second. You can find my review for ‘The Light of Other Days’ at this link,

It really is great.

and though I’ve already written the review for “Coyote” I’m going to save it for a little bit. Since I’ve already got the reviews prepped, I’m going to save talking about them too much here.

Video-game wise, I managed to play some more Legend of Zelda: Spirit racks, and I think I may just finish it eventually.

No, Not really...

My general opinion stands from last time: The dungeons are great, but the rail-roads, while a novel idea, turn out to be boring, bland, and take forever to get anywhere.

Which is sad, because there are definite charms to the game that I love.


I’ve been playing Epic Mickey, and I’ll save my thoughts for the review, but it might indicate something to you to say that I haven’t picked up the controller or that game in several weeks yet, though I hope to get back to it.

I had planned to do an extensive E3 post like I did last year, but I never found the time. As it stands, I think I’m going to tackle individual topics out of the show at a later date. Look out for my opinions on the PS Vita and the Wii U specifically in the coming weeks.

League of Legends is still awesome, but thankfully it isn’t taking up as much mind-share lately, giving me more time to do things like read and watch Dr. Who.

Oh. And Dr. Who. DR. WHO!
It took me forever to get around to watching this show, but I’m already in season three and I love it. Silly, campy, dramatic, exciting, adventurous, imaginative, emotional. Dr. Who is just brilliant. I started with 2005 and Christopher Eccleston, who was a brilliant Doctor, and now I’m watching David Tennent who is an even more brilliant Doctor. If you haven’t watched any yet, please do.

Now onto more real-life stuff.

First, Amy Winehouse’s early death is tragic if not exactly surprising. I don’t know too much about her music, I’m really only familiar with her as the butt of alcohol jokes. There’s really not much else for me to say about that, and that is a tragedy in and of itself.

Some of you may be aware of the recent tragedy in Norway in which a mad-man used a car-bomb before gunning down over eighty young people in the name of “anti-jihad” or rather xenophobic and polytheophobic crazyness. Keep Norway in your prayers and/or thoughts as they suffer through this tragedy. It’s another window into how utterly nuts our world is.

Even peaceful nations can unwittingly be the birthplace of hate and violence.


On a similar note, there was an 8-year-old boy hanged by militants in Afghanistan not long ago. I don’t know what to say other than it was utterly horrible.

On a lighter note. Gay Marriage in New York. Good for them! I hope they live happily ever after and all that. Can’t see the appeal personally, but that’s me, yeah? And guess what? That’s all that needs to be said.

I’m starting to feel like I’m just turning into a news aggregator (I’m drawing Agro, yo!), so let’s move on to the main event, shall we?

The Debt Crisis. What else. The funny thing is, I’m not really ragging on Republicans in general at the moment. No, you see, some of them have expressed frustration with their own members at the lack of willingness to compromise in the face of economic FAIL. No, who I’m ragging on, as always, are the bat-s**t crazy Tea Party members who were carried into office last November on a wave of ignorant fear and hate mongering.

It’s one thing to have a different opinion, politically, from others in office. This happens all the time. We don’t particularly always like it, but we cope. It’s the nature of a world with more than one person in it. But these wackos have forgotten that, if they ever even knew it in the first place. You can’t go at this Uni-laterally (I’m looking at you Boehner). There are three levels of government here that you have to learn to live with. You can’t change the nations fortunes using the House alone. You NEED the Senate and the President. And that means compromise.

Is this really such a hard concept to grasp? (see what I did there?)


Obama and the Democrats have given a lot up in compromises. Spending cuts out the wazoo with their $4 Trillion plan and no real tax increases (just some closed loopholes and such) are a heck of an olive branch if I ever saw one. And yet still the Tea Party says no. Why can they not step outside of their cult-like boxes to see that the people of America need and want a compromise. And what a deal, eh? The Tea Party loses almost nothing in this deal. They can even stand by their foolish no-tax-raises philosophy which keeps the rich sitting pretty. If they had taken the offer they would look like victors over a yielding Obama right now. Instead Obama looks like a man who was willing to put on his boots and gloves and get into the hard work, while the Tea Party Children complained and whined.

I don't think either of these two really kno what compromise actually is...


Tea Party, you’re losing. God luck getting re-elected when the nation sees you as brick headed as you always have been. 66% of Americans want a compromise. Over half of Republicans do too. Oh, and here are some more stats for you on these polls.

Makes the Tea Party look classy for sticking up for their own interests rather than those of the American majority opinion, eh? Lovely. Aren’t Hypocrites charming? /sarcasm.

"Do I want the politicians in Washington to stop being self-centered morons? hm... lemme think...


That’s really all I have in terms of today’s post. I’m going to try (again) to post more regularly and with smaller posts. We’ll see if I can manage it.

Till we meet again,

– Edward L. Cheever II

Rango and John Marston Save the West while SWAU takes Illegal Pictures of Floridian Farms

It’s been a while since I’ve done a simple catch-all blog post. My more recent posts have been narrowed down to a topic or two. That’s great and all, but it also means I haven’t been able to talk about other things I enjoy, so today is going to be a classic run through the gauntlet. Tally-ho!

Onward!


First things first… SWAU… there is something of a situation on campus, as the student body is splitting over (and mostly against) the Administration. Now, I’m not as plugged into Facebook or campus life as a lot of other people, so my exposure to the issues has been mostly tangential. But, since it’s come to my attention, I’ve been trying to grab reliable information, and this is the scenario I’ve pieced together thus far: Over the past few months or more, really going as far back as the crass and disgusting treatment of Dr. Anavitarte, the Administration has been taking certain actions that have been poorly received by the student body at large (including myself).

This is primarily based around the firing of a number of personnel. A secretary was fired allegedly because the Administration blames her for lowering enrollment (how that’s supposed to work, have no idea), and a proffesor was fired because he attended a non-denominational church on a Saturday (also a base and foolish reason to get rid of a likeable and skilled professional). There have been other firings that I am less familiar with as well. All of this comes to a head as Dean Knight was not hired on after the end of this semester. From what I gather, he fomented some hard feelings among others over this decision, which lead the Administration to fire him.

The student body has now come to a boil over what they see as an elimination of one of the last staff members they see as truly fighting for them, and being “on their side” as it were. However false or true this sentiment may be, the point is that a large number of students have been protesting these actions and demanding answers from the administration. An assembly took place earlier which I was unable to attend, that was supposedly going to answer some of these questions. I do not know how this has turned out just yet. I find it unlikely that Dr. Anderson will find anything to say that will satiate the student body.

I don’t know where this is all headed, but I do know that, if the reasons for the firings are as I have heard, something is rotten in SWAU. I don’t know if it is Dr. Anderson, or the Board, or some other force behind the scenes, but ever since Dr. Anavitarte, SWAU has been dealing shadily and backhandedly with important, honest and sincere members of its body. It hasn’t been living up to the values it supposedly upholds as an institution of Christ, and has instead fallen into the trap of so many religious institutions. Yes, this has long been a problem. Yes, I have had serious issues with the way things are done at SWAU for some time. But this seems to be a drastic step further in the wrong direction.

I’m waiting to see what new information comes to light in these matters. I have only really heard one side of the story, and so this entire scenario might have dimensions I am not aware of. Perhaps the reasons given for the firings were ways of letting these people off the hook gently for some greater and unseen reason. Perhaps Dean Knight was undercutting Dr. Anderson’s authority in some way (I don’t like the way Dean Knight acted in Dr. Anavitarte’s case). Perhaps. But unlikely.

One thing is unquestionably clear: Even if the Administration has good reasons for what they’ve done, they’ve done a piss-poor job of selling it to the community. Enrollment doesn’t suffer over a single secretary. It suffers over the perception that SWAU is a place where spirituality is corrupted, where politics is more important than friendliness and where people aren’t treated with the dignity and respect Christ’s message calls us to.

In other silly news, apparently a Florida Senator, Jim Norman, wants to introduce a bill to make it a felony to take pictures of Floridian farms.

'Don't sue me! Pleeeeeeeaaaase!'

I won’t spend long on the topic, because I think it’s ridiculous, but what exactly does this guy think he’s going to accomplish? Have all those people who’ve been taking photos of farms been just robbing those poor farmers of what’s rightfully theirs? If the very sight of a farm is just that important to protect, why don’t we just build walls around each farm and charge a couple bucks per minutes of viewing time through little peep windows, eh? Foolishness. This would give legal grounds for enterprising farmers to start suing people over almost anything (not to disparage the intent of most honest Floridian farmers, mind you). We’re talking about adding a substantial burden in litigation upon the people involved and the taxpayers who pay for the bureaucracy of it all. It’s un-needed, unwarranted, and adds to the so-called “big government” that senators like this are supposedly so against.

Moving on to greener pastures, and less ranting and so forth, here is a fascinating article by Men’s Journal about a blind man who taught himself to see via echolocation. Yeah, he’s essentially a real-world Matt Murdock.

That, my friends, is a blind man riding a bike.

I sincerely hope that his techniques can be used to revolutionize the treatment of the Blind. Most interesting to me is the project he’s been trying to put into motion to build artificial echolocation devices to make it even easier and more accurate for Blind people. It sounds really promising (though I wonder if two Blind people can operate in the same space with their devices?) but the project is looking to cost at least 15 million dollars. That’s a lot of money to just throw together for the research and development. Maybe somebody should tell him about the Kickstarter program.

In the entertainment side of life, I recently wrote a review of Rango (spoilers: I loved it), which I highly recommend you all go and read. Rango was a surprise and a real treat. That is something that is becoming all too rare in the film industry, where brand names are the new hottness instead of innovation and creativity. To that end, here’s a wonderfully thought out article on the state of the film industry, and while it isn’t a heartwarming piece, it’s very clear and rings of truth. The road out of this mess is unclear.

Of course this has left a gaping hole for a new medium to fill. That medium is Video Games. While it is true that Video Games have their own brands and cash-in sequel and prequel showers, there is also a ton of innovation and new concepts. It’s where the money is. It is where societal entertainment in headed, and hopefully that won’t be a bad thing. If the film industry can pick itself back up, the mediums can complement each other by their differences, much as books and television also fill certain niches. But for now, Video Games seem on a solitary rise to stardom.

Video Games are also where old genres find new life. Now, westerns are doing some new business again in Hollywood with True Grit and Rango, but for recent portrayals of the Old West, I’d put my money on Red Dead Redemption as being more important to the survival of the genre. I don’t have a load of time to spend playing video games, what between work, school and other media and responsibilities, but I do occasionally get a chance to sit down with Red Dead as I work my way slowly through the campaign and side missions. It truly is a marvel, and I feel like I’m really out in the old west riding around, gun-slinging and so forth. For an open-world game, it can be pretty darn gorgeous at times, which is a testament to the artistry of Rockstar Games. I look forward to my next trek in John Marston’s boots.

Oh, and briefly while I’m still thinking about video games… Katie kicks the snot out of me at Marvel vs. Capcom 3. It I both a pain and a joy to have so enthusiastic a gamer fiance. At least I could still pwn her in a strategy game… you know… if she played them much… and stuff…

…. onward!

Speaking of Katie, she and I recently made a deal to where she would read the first three books of The Chronicles of Narnia if I would read A Clockwork Orange. She beat me to the punch. I was only 2 pages in, being busy with other stuff and somewhat put off by the need, at first, to use a vocabulary list to understand what everybody was saying, while she had already finished all three books and was into the fourth. Well, I finally got around to it again and polished it up in essentially two more sit-downs with the book. It helped to more or less ignore the vocabulary list, and just try to absorb the slang terms over time. It was a real horrorshow story, though Alex and his droogs really rubbed me the wrong way (as they should pretty much anyone, what with the ultra-violence and rapes and all). The brainwashing was pretty disturbing, though I didn’t have much sympathy for the victim. All in all, I enjoyed the book quite a lot. The ending has me for a loop, however, as I’m not sure if the author meant to say that sociopathy and an ultra-violent life-style is something that people just grow out of, or if he was making another statement about how people are programmed. In any case, it’s something to think on. I’m looking forward to watching the Kubrick film with Katie when it arrives in the mail.

Now that I’m done with A Clockwork Orange, I’m moving on to The Wise Man’s Fear, which is the eagerly anticipated follow up to Patrick Rothfuss’s first novel, The Name of the Wind. I loved the first book, and so I’m glad to be starting the second. Assuming I have enough time to just sit down and read, I don’t expect it to take me too long to finish, though it is a good deal longer than A Clockwork Orange. After that I’ll be moving over to The Light of Other Days, a sci-fi novel by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter that I’m borrowing from Dr. Robinson.

Well, I think I’m just about ready to wrap this blog post up and put a bow on it. But before I bid adieu to you and you and you, here’s a hilarious website called DamnYouAutoCorrect.com It’s a terrific little site that has a massive collection of images of conversations where the iPhone auto correct has changed harmless words into inappropriate ones. I think all us iPhone users know how that is, yes?

Well, until later, Adios!

– Edward L. Cheever II

My Relationship To The Used Games Controversy

The Face of Evil?


Today’s post is going to be themed. Sorry for all you who love my random topics.

For those of you who pay any attention to the Video Game Industry, you’ve probably heard a little bit about recent comments by THQ creative director, Cory Ledesma, which came down hard on the used games market. Predictably, this has caused the controversy to kindle anew, though it feels like a fairly short amount of time since we last discussed this. People all across the industry are weighing in on both sides, and there are many good points for and against used games.

Penny Arcade, who’s TV Show I Reviewed Recently, is one of the more notable ones, with a very convincing comic against used games, and a blog post with discussion to back it up and talk about it.

On the other side of the fence come a very insightful article by Wired’s Chris Kohler called GameStop the ScapeGoat: Why Used Games Debate Isn’t So Simple. The article covers a lot of ground in defending the used games market by describing the symbiotic nature between used and new games, and how one feeds the other, theoretically strengthening the industry as a whole.

I suggest reading the full articles and blogs aforementioned for full perspectives on the issue. I don’t like repeating other people, especially when they are better at writing on the subject and are more knowledgeable than I am. Instead I’m going to throw out my perspective.

Games are expensive, new games especially so. Even a person with a full time job who dedicated him or her self fully to this hobby cannot afford all of the great games that come out every year. I do not have a full time job, and I have interests outside of video games, including movies, books and a variety of other things, all of which also cost money. No matter how good a game looks, I balk at the 60 dollar price point.

= What I Don't Have Much Of


Now, I can’t understand people who then buy a used copy for 55 dollars, as Gamestop encourages. That is, in my mind, legal highway robbery. Gamers who do this need to reconsider their actions, in my mind. But when you’re taking about a used game for 20 dollars verses 60, 50 or even 40 it becomes far more tempting. At that price point I can buy two, or even three games.

More important to me, as someone who enjoys going back and playing acclaimed games of yesteryear, piles of used games are the only places to find rare quality titles. I would not have Shadow of the Colossus, ICO, Final Fantasy VII-XII (minus XI), or any of the Kingdom Hearts or Devil May Cry games without finding them there. Yes, sometimes I could find them new on Amazon, but games from previous generations jump once more in price, and a game like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night can run you 80 dollars.

80 Dollars!!! O.O


Used games, simply put, can be a great way to expand your gaming horizons and afford games that are hard to find.

That said, there are more and more ways to enjoy lower prices on new games. When a great game does poorly in sales, the prices drop. Sometimes absurd deals can be found on Amazon, where I bought House of the Dead Overkill and No More Heroes for well under twenty dollars each. Steam, Valve’s downloadable service, drew me back in to PC gaming with fantastic deals, giving me high quality games for sub 10 dollar price points. This frees me up to spend my money on other new games, also cheaply priced. I may not be giving the developers 60 dollars a pop, but I’m giving them far more than they would ever see on a used game sale.

The way I operate nowadays has been modified over time. I cannot afford 60 dollar games, thus I play most games long after they’ve been released. A year past its release I was able o buy deBlob for the Wii for eight dollars. I waited long enough and I got Mass Effect 2 for twenty dollars.

Totally worth it.

Mass Effect is just as good now as it was at the beginning of this year, as you can read In My Review, and I was finally able to afford it. That money is translated into new purchases on Steam or the Playstation Network, where I recently bought Scott Pilgrim vs. The World downloadable game. I’ll peruse Amazon for new copies of the games of previous generations, as well as modern deals. When I can’t find a rare game for cheap, I haunt the local Game Stop and flip through their stockpiles of used games, occasionally finding that hidden treasure for a reasonable price.

I cannot condemn the used game market, and those who use it for similar reasons, because of the services it offers me. But I want to help out the developers of such awesome games. It is easy, from all that I have said, to demonize the 60 dollar price point, DRM and EA’s online pass. It is too high. But those high prices are needed to fund the incredible experiences I get from games like Uncharted and Halo. Developers need money. They have families and mortgages. They need to be paid if I want to continue to get quality titles. This is why, personally, I try to avoid buying used games as much as possible.

Sometimes Gems Are Only Readily Found Used


Then there are the best case scenarios. The Humble Indie Bundle was one such deal. Buy a swath of quality titles at any price you desire, and allocate the money partitioned however you desire to the developers and/or charity. I could have paid twenty dollars, ten dollars, a penny, but I laid down fifty dollars, half to the developers, half to charity. Even then I felt like maybe I should have done more. Some people paid as much as five hundred dollars. The developers saw a huge boom in profits and copies sold and charities saw many new donations. Sometimes the best medicine for the tensions between consumers and developers is not online passes and DRM, but pure good will.

Maybe, even when we all wish people would buy more games new, Mr. Ledesma should take that to heart.

-Edward L. Cheever II